We are moving towards a very special time of year with all the lights and all the holiday events. The songs play on the radio and the good ones that come on, which take me back to the days when I was young, are still the songs that take me back to different memories. I find them beautiful although in my age and though the time between then and now is distant, there is a sting with these memories, beautiful as they are, and painful in some way because these times will never be so again.
I am and always will be a fan of Bing Crosby. I will always appreciate the song he sung in a movie, “Going My Way.”
I will always remember the first time I ever saw a movie with Spencer Tracy. The movie was Boys Town and Spencer Tracy played Father Flanagan. His line which I remember most is, “There’s one thing I know, that I really know, and that there is no such thing as a bad boy.”
To some this line might be ridiculous. To some they might have an opinion on this, but to me, I was kid, living on a farm for the duration of treatment as a punitive sentence. Unbeknownst to me, I was just about to bury my Father and all I felt was the anguish.
At the time, I lived in a place that was very similar to Boys Town. At the time, I was lost and felt helpless. And at the time, had I not been taken out of my element and removed from my environment, I struggle to imagine what might have happened to me.
Instead, I was on the farm with people that helped me learn to love myself. And to a kid that found himself as irredeemable, to find my own personal redemption was nothing short of a miracle.
It was just about this time of year in 1989 when the first call came in to tell me about The Old Man.
He had his first heart attack. As for me, I was lost in so many ways. I was resistant to the ideas that I needed to fully change and completely evolve from who I was into who I needed to become. I was not doing very well. I was angry. I misbehaved, pinned as a behavioral disorder; pinned as emotionally disturbed, and told I was mentally ill.
I was called a lot of things and felt the weight of each label. I was learning disabled. But mainly, I was an angry kid that didn’t have the language or the ability to express myself. Moreover, I wanted to be good but I just never seemed to feel like I fit. Therefore, i reacted out of frustration
It was a Sunday morning when they told me the news. It was a normal day like any other. I woke up and went to breakfast. I had no idea that my life was about to change. I had no idea that someone was going to deliver the news that would change my world forever.
I took a long car ride with a Priest and another fellow member of the farm, He was a sponsor to me and someone we called a senior member. We were driven from the s,all town of Hancock, New York to my hometown in Long Island. It was at a nearby hospital called Hempstead General where I saw The Old Man.
The Old Man was not too bad. He was altered though, Or maybe shaken, is a better way of explaining him. He was shaken because mortality became very real. He was shaken because although we know death comes for us all, The Old Man was shaken because deep down, The Old Man understood that time was unalterable gift that comes with limitations.
I was shaken too. I was shaken because the idea of loss became very real to me. I was shaken because the thought of The Old Man dying was too much for me to handle. It was strange though. It was strange to see him this way, The Old Man, weak and quiet.
It was as though some part of him went missing. It was as though a glimmer of him was somehow muted and tired. He was still The Old Man and still quick-witted. But something had been shaken free. Perhaps, this was good though because all of his anger and resentment was flushed away.
He was calm in a way that I had never seen him to be. He was in a strange state of calm surrender.
The Old Man was still strong but this was a very different strength. Instead of physical might, I saw my Father stripped of all the nonsense we hold on to. And in a way, at last, we were okay and at peace with each other.
I stayed for an overnight visit. I went home and slept in my house, which was foreign to me. My bedroom was no longer my bedroom anymore. It was under repair and used as an office for The Old Man’s business.
I recall walking in my room and looking around. All of my furniture was gone but the history remained. I knew where my hiding spots were. I knew where my secrets hid. I knew all the demons I had left behind, and lo and behold, for the first time, I saw exactly who I was.
I stood before myself in a figurative mirror and at first glance, I didn’t recognize me.
The next day, I saw The Old Man for a while and then went back in the car for a ride back to the farm.
I had no idea what was about to take place. I had no idea the changes that were about to come my way. All I knew is that something was about to happen.
It was the holiday season, Christmas time, and me, I was just a kid hoping for a Christmas miracle.